MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (09/27/2023) — Kristen Mark, PhD, with the University of Minnesota Medical School, received a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to enhance the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in Tanzania through a new project. The research team will train future healthcare providers like nurses, doctors and midwives with the skills and confidence to offer comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services for people with disabilities.

“Through doing this research, we will improve the lives of people with disabilities in Tanzania and build in-country capacity to ensure this work can continue long after our grant period ends,” said Dr. Mark, a professor at the U of M Medical School’s Eli Coleman Institute for Sexual and Gender Health. 

Tanzania struggles with some of the most pressing challenges in reproductive health and has a significant population of individuals with disabilities who remain underserved in reproductive healthcare. Despite this, healthcare professionals in Tanzania receive no formal training to address reproductive health concerns in persons with disabilities.

To address this issue and effectively prepare health professionals in roles from clinic management to policy-making, a reproductive health curriculum must be both evidence-based and culturally sensitive, tailored to the specific needs of communities.

In this study, the curriculum will be further refined, pilot-tested and evaluated through a randomized controlled trial against a waitlist control, measuring its impact on the ability of health workers to address reproductive health concerns for individuals with disabilities.

“Nothing on this scale can be completed without the dedication of an incredible team. Doing global health research requires an investment in relationship building; I find that part of this work particularly enriching and rewarding,” Dr. Mark said. “My colleagues, Gunna Kilian, Dr. Simon Rosser and Dr. Mike Ross, have built these relationships with our Tanzanian team over time, and all of this is a team effort.”

This study is funded by the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Research on Women's Health [grant number 1R01HD110999-01]. 

This project includes a multi-disciplinary group of co-investigators from multiple institutions: Simon Rosser, PhD at U of M School of Public Health; Maria Trent, MD, MPH at Johns Hopkins University; Michael Ross, MD, PhD; Gift Lukumay, MSc; Lucy Mgopa, MD; Stella Mushy, PhD at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences; Charlotta Lofgren, PhD at Malmo University; and Devon Hensel, PhD at Indiana University.

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